bogey

Bogey is a term that today is usually only heard in the air force or on the golf course.  Both these aviation usages date to World War II, but the term bogey is much, much older, coming from an old Scottish word for a ghost.

That word is bogle, often spelled bogy, bogil, bogie, and other ways. The term dates at c.1507, in William Dunbar’s The Tretis of the Twa Mariit Wemen and the Wedo (The Treatise of the Two Married Women and the Widow):

The luif blenkis of that bogill, fra his blerde ene
(As Belzebub had on me blent) abasit my spreit.
(The love blink of that bogle, from his bleared eyes
(As Beelzebub had me blinded) abased my spirit.)1

Bogle is the source for our modern bogeyman or boogieman.

Up in the wild, blue yonder it is a reference to an unidentified aircraft that is presumably hostile. The term dates to World War II. Loosbrock’s and Skinner’s The Wild Blue has this quote from 1943:

Bogies coming. Direction southeast.

And Joseph Bryan’s Aircraft Carrier has this from 1945:

A bandit is an enemy plane, whereas a bogey is merely...unidentified...However, “bogey” has now been extended to include both terms.2

On the links, a bogey is a score of one over par on a particular hole. According to the OED, this term was invented in 1890 by a certain Major Wellman at the Great Yarmouth Golf Club. He was playing against a Dr. Thomas Browne using the scratch value of each hole. Wellman, having difficulty beating the scratch score, claimed that he was playing against a bogey-man, a character in a popular song at the time. In American usage, bogey came to mean one over par. From Field magazine, January 1892:

A novelty was introduced in shape of a Bogey tournament for a prize...Fourteen couples started, but the Bogey defeated all.

The sense meaning a score of one over par on a hole is from 1946, in Edward C. Acree’s Golf Simplified:

Bogey, a hole scored in one stroke over par.3

The verb form appears around 1948, the earliest cite in the OED being from Ben Hogan’s Power Golf:

After he drove into the rough he bogeyed the hole and lost his advantage.4

So both the aviation and golf senses are usages representing phantoms, whether they be phantom planes or phantom players.


1William Dunbar, Selected Poems, edited by Priscilla Bawcutt (London: Longman, 1996), 39.

2Historical Dictionary of American Slang, v. 1, A-G, edited by Jonathan Lighter (New York: Random House, 1994), 219.

3Oxford English Dictionary, bogey, 2nd Edition, 1989, Oxford University Press, accessed 29 Dec 2008 <http://dictionary.oed.com/cgi/entry/50024462>.

4OED2, bogey, v., <http://dictionary.oed.com/cgi/entry/50024461>.

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